Belgian professor and Africa expert speaks on situation in DRC and Rwanda
By Wayne Madsen
Dec 9, 2009, 00:18
(WMR) — Noted Belgian expert on the history and politics of central Africa’s Great Lakes region and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Dr. Filip Reyntjens of the Institute of Development Policy and Management (IOB) in Antwerp, spoke at the School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University in Washington on December 3 and leveled a broadside on the policies of Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame in his nation’s looting of the DRC’s natural resources.
Reyntjens said that in 1997 and 1998, Kagame, a Rwandan Tutsi who grew up in Uganda, decided that the only way to deal with Hutus exiled to Zaire from Rwanda was to “exterminate them.”
Kagame is now lauded around the world by uninformed “human rights” groups and governments for the “suffering” he and his comrades endured after the mass killings of Rwandan Tutsis in the aftermath of the aerial assassinations of the Hutu presidents of Rwanda and Burundi by Kagame’s forces on April 6, 1994.
Eventually, Kagame became such a regional military threat by 2001 that his old ally, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, asked British overseas development minister Clare Short for permission to spend development aid from Britain on defense in order to protect against what Museveni believed was a Rwandan military threat. Rwandan troops began to appear in force in DRC’s Ituri province, which has a border with Uganda but not Rwanda. Rwanda also began supporting a rebel militia in Ituri, composed largely of Hema tribal members, that was originally allied with Uganda but turned against it with aid from Rwanda. Reyntjens believes that such “shifting alliances” are rampant in the DRC and are making it difficult for the central government to reassert its authority over the vast nation.
Essentially, Rwandan and Ugandan forces were competing against one another over the lion’s share of DRC’s rich natural resources, which were and continue to be looted by both countries from the DRC. In fact, Reyntjens pointed out that the expensive villas and office blocks now being constructed in Kigali, the Rwandan capital, are being paid with the profits from the looted natural resources from the DRC.
Reyntjens, like any journalist or academic who criticized Kagame and his dictatorship, stands accused by Kagame’s supporters of having a relationship with the former Rwandan government of assassinated President Juvenal Habyarimana. Reyntjens points out that such was not always the case with Kagame and his government, “I was a hero until I started criticizing Kagame.” Reyntjens says the Rwandan government engages in character assassination when dealing with its critics.
Rwanda is also involved in the illegal exploitation of resources in the DRC, according to Reyntjens. While admitting that Zimbabwe was also exploiting the DRC for its resources, the major difference, according to Reyntjens, is that Zimbabwe was dealing directly with the DRC central government — a sovereign power — while Rwanda was not.
Reyntjens cited a recent UN report that stated that in the DRC illegal aircraft movements are the rule rather than the exception. He also said Rwanda used prisoners from Rwandan jails to mine diamonds in the DRC, a clear violation of international law. Reyntjens called what is happening in the DRC the “Luxembourg Effect,” comparing the situation to what the German people would think if tiny Luxembourg wielded control over a large portion of German land and resources.
One of the biggest problems for the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) is the presence of Rwandan-backed Congolese Tutsis in the FARDC command structure in eastern Congo. Reyntjens says the situation on the ground in eastern Congo is that Congolese Tutsis integrated into the FARDC are fighting Rwandan Hutu rebels within the DRC’s borders. Reyntjens does not believe the Rwandan armed forces should be allowed to operate in the DRC in any respect. He believes what the DRC needs is a real army and a real state.
However, since Kagame and his government constantly and astutely use the “Genocide Credit” with international donors, the aggression and interference of Rwanda in the internal affairs of DRC is never discussed. Moreover, Reyntjens said there are now “dozens of American” researchers now operating inside Rwanda and that this is a new development.
Summing up the problems for all of Africa, Reyntjens said that while the DRC must re-establish central control over its territory, including preventing Rwanda from unrestricted border crossings between it and the DRC, many Congolese, like most Africans, are suspicious of central state governments. Most Africans associate “the state” with police, rackets, and prisons, said Reyntjens. Ironically, the United States, through its military incursion into Africa with the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), is trying to extend the control of state military structures over the nations of Africa, except, of course, where U.S. and certain foreign economic interests do not find such state control advantageous, as in DRC and Sudan.
Reyntjens is hopeful that a federal DRC will be able to reassert Congolese authority over its territory and cited the 25 new provinces of the DRC where revenues from each province will be distributed as follows: 50 percent to the central government in Kinshasa, 40 percent to the provincial governments, and 10 percent to an equalization fund that will be used to balance the financial disparities between rich and poor provinces.
Reyntjens has written a new book, “The Great African War: Congo and Regional Geopolitics, 1996-2006,” from Cambridge University Press. This editor’s book, “Genocide and Covert Operations in Africa 1993-1999,” is referenced therein.
Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).
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